Some folks might think this line from the new book “Death is a Crapshoot: A Hank Faro Mystery,” by Maggy Anthony is about today in the Truckee Meadows. Actually, it is a thought racing through the mind of a private investigator as he dodges bullets in The Biggest Little City 70 years ago.
Today’s Reno looks very different to Anthony, who has written the book using a combination of imagination, memory and research. As a 17-year-old in 1953, Anthony came to Reno when her mother moved from San Francisco following a divorce. They lived at Scottie’s Guest House, run by a retired brothel madam, just north of downtown. She was mesmerized by the clubs and their owners, such as “Pappy” Smith of Harold’s Club, Lincoln Fitzgerald at the Nevada Club and Bill Harrah at Harrah’s.
“Reno in 1949 was a hot town, with legal gambling, quickie divorces, legal prostitution just up the road — and gangsters, too, who kept a low profile,” Anthony said in a press release. It is this atmosphere that provides the backdrop to her book, slated to be the first in a series about the exciting, noirish life of Faro.
“Researching and writing the Hank Faro series has given me the opportunity of showing the Reno that had attracted me so, including a mix of characters in town from all walks of life and cultures,” Anthony said. “ ‘Death is a Crapshoot’ is the first of a planned series, intertwining the gambling and other aspects of Reno which made it the town it is.”
To paint a picture of the people and places in her story, Anthony did a lot of research at the Nevada Historical Society, to which the book is dedicated. “Death is a Crapshoot” is being sold exclusively as an ebook for $6, and she plans to give 5 percent of proceeds from its sale to the society.
When she first lived in Reno, Anthony’s mother had a saying: “One thing about downtown Reno is you’re as safe as being in God’s pocket.” Anthony only stayed about eight months at that time, but she returned about 20 years later, also as a single parent. God’s pocket had become less safe then, she remembered, and today she can’t find much to remind her of those times. From large landmarks such as the Mapes Hotel to the beautiful staircase inside her old Gamma Phi Beta sorority house, a lot of things have disappeared.
“There doesn’t seem to be a real push to preserve the best of Reno,” she said.
Anthony has tried to preserve those old images of Reno with words and a fictional story. Based in historical fact, this first Faro adventure centers around a mob hit based on the attempted killing of Lincoln Fitzgerald in 1949. In real life, Fitzgerald survived and later was Anthony’s boss at the Nevada Club. Now a retired family therapist, Anthony has written several books and the one-woman play, “Impossibly Blonde: Marilyn at 80,” about what Marilyn Monroe might have been like had she not died at age 36.
“Death is a Crapshoot” is available for downloadable purchase at Amazon.com. For more information about Anthony, visit www.maggyanthony.com.